Resettlement agencies have gone to great lengths to help Afghans like Kabir and his family find housing, enroll their children in schools and provide English training. They are joined by local churches, community groups and families from Texas to California to Virginia, spreading their arms in ways that inspire their new neighbors.
However, although the most important step in a refugee’s journey is finding work, many still struggle to find work. They may not be fluent in English. You have a resume that includes work experience, qualifications, or company names that are unfamiliar to recruiters. Or you face transportation challenges because you don’t have a driver’s license. Businesses need to step up to lower barriers for Afghans (and other refugees) to work. To provide suitable jobs and a ladder from entry-level jobs to jobs that reflect their background and qualifications.
Ultimately, refugees want their hands up, not handouts. Securing decent work is the moment when refugees can find dignity in providing for themselves and their families and can begin to put down roots in their new communities.
Thanks to these efforts, thousands of Afghans, including Kabir, have found suitable jobs in the United States. On April 11, he began working as a procurement associate at Pfizer. A new start for Kabir. As he puts it, “Now I’m rebuilding my life from scratch.”
A year later, more than half of Afghan refugees looking for work are estimated to have found one. But that means there is still a lot of work to be done. More companies need to step up to hire Afghan refugees. We make modest investments to overcome language, transport and other barriers. Entry-level jobs in areas such as hospitality, food service, and retail are absolutely critical to providing refugees with opportunities to earn a living, improve their English, and learn soft skills to navigate the American workplace. But these jobs should be the starting point, not the end of your professional journey. Companies need to do more to help Afghans land jobs where they can make the most of their skills through mentorship, training and career advancement opportunities.
Despite all that has happened, Kabir is grateful to fate for bringing him to America. You can’t let him down.